This essay focuses on the life and times of Napoleon Bonaparte and on the cultural, political, and economic history of Spain. It is written for the participants on Stanford Travel/Study’s cruise, Sailing the Western Mediterranean, October 17-26, 2017.
I begin with two sections on Napoleon Bonaparte. The first deals with how Napoleon gained control of France in 1799, the reforms that he enacted during the Consulate period (1799-1804), and how he created an empire in Europe (1805-1811). The second covers the last decade of Napoleon’s life (1812-1821) – why the
Continental System led to his downfall, how he struggled to recover from defeat, and what legacies emerged from his rule.
The last four sections are concerned with political and economic transitions in Spain during four key centuries – Roman Hispania (2nd century), Islamic Spain (10th century), Imperial Spain (16th century), and Modern Spain (20th century). In each, I look at conquest, governance, sources of wealth, and contrasting food patterns. I append time lines and bibliographies for Napoleon and Spain and a description of sites visited in the Western Mediterranean region.